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Specialist breast care and research nurses' attitudes to adjuvant chemotherapy in older women with breast cancer

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 16:01 authored by Rachel Ballinger, Elizabeth FordElizabeth Ford, Emma Pennery, Valerie JenkinsValerie Jenkins, Alistair Ring, Lesley FallowfieldLesley Fallowfield
Purpose Breast cancer largely affects older women (>=70 y) who have historically been excluded from clinical trials; consequently, treatment is often not evidence-based. Older women may not be offered adjuvant chemotherapy due to assumptions that they would not benefit, cannot tolerate it or do not wish to have it. Specialist breast care nurses (BCN) and research nurses (RN) play an important role influencing decisions. We report the roles, attitudes and involvement of such nurses regarding adjuvant chemotherapy in older women.Method A questionnaire examined 259 UK BCN and RN's views about efficacy and desirability of chemotherapy in older women, participation in decision-making in MDTs, and roles when chemotherapy was discussed with patients.Results 72% of BCN and 48% of RN agreed that age should not be a factor influencing who is offered chemotherapy. BCNs indicated involvement in decision-making with older breast cancer patients, discussing chemotherapy with patients at different points following diagnosis and during treatment, and proposing chemotherapy in MDT meetings. RNs were involved to a lesser extent. 69% of all nurses had not received specific training in the area and 70% thought training would be beneficial. Nurses disagreed that older patients would not tolerate or did not want chemotherapy but 1/3 agreed or were uncertain that burdens of chemotherapy outweighed benefits. A third felt that older women had less control over treatment decisions than younger women.Conclusions This study suggests a need to develop the role of specialist nurses to facilitate treatment decision-making relating to chemotherapy in older women.


Publication status

  • Published


European Journal of Oncology Nursing









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Department affiliated with

  • Sussex Health Outcomes Research & Education in Cancer (SHORE-C) Publications

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Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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